Better Off Dead
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#4 Do No Harm
No group has done more to persuade politicians to oppose assisted dying in Australia over the last 20 years than doctors. Citing their Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’, they argue that giving doctors the right to ‘kill’, instead of cure, will forever damage the doctor-patient relationship.
What they fight so fiercely to preserve is a world strongly influenced by Christian concepts of care, one where ‘doctor knows best’, even when it comes to the end of a person’s life.
Not all doctors feel this way. In this episode, we meet a number of physicians from very different backgrounds, who think the old paternalism is not always what’s best for their patients.
Each came to voluntary assisted dying through different paths, but from similar clinical experiences: the undeniable reality that there are some people at the end of life for whom medicine, however skilfully applied, can do no more.
Far from being damaged by facilitating assistance to die, the relationships they have formed with their patients along the way have been among the most profound of their careers.
Dr Cameron McLaren
“I thought we were all going to do it. I think that was very naive in retrospect. When the legislation came out I thought ... you know, patients wanted this, that’s the reason it’s put in. We look after patients, we practise patient-centred care, which means we should be providing the services that they want. ”
- Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
- Website: Doctors For Assisted Dying Choice, respecting rational patient end-of-life choices
- Article: ‘Is the Hippocratic oath still relevant to practising doctors today?’ — The BMJ, 14 December 2016
- Viewpoint: ‘The Revised Declaration of Geneva: A Modern-Day Physician’s Pledge’ — The JAMA Network, 28 November 2017
- Article: ‘The inescapable truth: palliative care is not enough—we can and should legislate for assisted dying’ — Dr Arun Bhaskar, The BMJ Opinion, 25 September 2019
In this episode
In order of appearance: Mark Yates, Nick Carr, Cameron McLaren, Nola Maxfield, Peter Lange, Phillip Parente, Lisa Hogg, Odette Spruijt, Helen Lord, Lisa Hogg, David Speakman, Katie Harley
Better Off Dead season two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia
Learn more about Go Gentle Australia’s work
Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta
Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)
Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia)
Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre)
Episode Transcript: Alice Boyle
Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
Music: Anthurium and Brendon John Warner
Episode artwork: Megan Herbert
Special thanks to our interviewees Cameron McLaren, Nick Carr, Greg Mewett, Andrea Bendrups, Peter Lange, David Speakman and Phillip Parente for their time for this episode.
If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – add your voice and tell your story here.
Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format.
Andrew Denton is widely recognised as one of Australian media's genuinely creative forces.